The Abortion Controversy: A Documentary History

By Eva R. Rubin | Go to book overview

Part III
The 1973 Abortion Cases

By 1971 fourteen states had revised their abortion laws to permit abortions under certain circumstances, and four states had repealed their abortion statutes, but in a majority of the states abortion remained a crime. Change was coming through state legislative activity, but it was coming slowly, one state at a time. And it was also true that voters in some of the states were determined to keep abortion illegal.

Perhaps the courts could provide a shortcut. A Supreme Court decision declaring that laws restricting abortion were unconstitutional would bring change much more quickly, overturning all state laws at a single blow. Under Chief Justice Earl Warren ( 1953-1969) the Supreme Court had made a number of decisions that had worked similar revolutionary changes in the law and politics of the country. The Court had overturned state laws requiring racial segregation in public schools. It had made a number of important changes in the way the criminal justice system was administered. And it had announced a "one-man, one-vote" ruling that was forcing the states to give voters equal representation in voting for members of Congress and state legislatures. Advocates of abortion reform hoped that they could use the judicial system to bring about changes in abortion laws as well.

Throughout 1970 and 1971 a number of abortion cases were filed in state and federal courts, but only one of these cases reached the Supreme Court. That case, United States v. Vuitch ( 1971) (see Document 30), was decided on a technical point of law and did not really address the general question of the constitutionality of laws limiting a woman's decision to have an abortion. If the Court accepted another abortion case, it would have to decide some difficult questions. Did a woman have a constitutional right to decide for herself whether or not to have an abortion? What part of the Constitution protected such

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The Abortion Controversy: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Publication/Copyright Page iv
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Advisory Board vi
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Part I - Before 1960 1
  • Abortion in Historical Context 3
  • Contraception and Abortion in America Before 1960 10
  • Bibliography 43
  • Part II - The Abortion Reform Movement (1960-1972) 45
  • The Reformers 47
  • Catalysts 68
  • Reform Activity in State Legislatures (1967-1972) 79
  • The Politics of State Legislative Reform (1967-1973) 82
  • Breakthrough in the Courts 89
  • The Abortion Situation Worldwide 100
  • Public Opinion 103
  • Conclusion 107
  • Philosophical Arguments for and Against the Liberalization of Abortion Laws 109
  • Bibliography 116
  • Part III - The 1973 Abortion Cases 117
  • The Law and the Cases 119
  • The Immediate Reaction to the Abortion Decisions 140
  • Bibliography 169
  • Part IV - The Battle Lines Are Drawn (1974-1980) 171
  • State Legislative Action and Judicial Response (1974-1980) 173
  • Amending the Constitution 189
  • Politics and Elections 219
  • Conclusion 223
  • Bibliography 231
  • Part V - The Reagan and Bush Administrations and Beyond (1980- ) 233
  • National Politics 237
  • State Legislation During the 1980s 267
  • New Issues and Problems 273
  • Bibliography 283
  • Epilogue - 1993 and After 285
  • Appendix A - Major Supreme Court Decisions Related to Abortion, 1973-1993 291
  • Appendix B - Chronology of Events in the Abortion Controversy 295
  • Index 303
  • About the Editor 312
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